“And so ends this day’s work”: industrial perspectives on early nineteenth-century American whaleships wrecked in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands

23rd December 2015

Jason T. Raupp

Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, PhD, July 2015

The pelagic whale fishery was one of the most important contributors to the development of the early American economy. Although oil extracted from whales taken along the New England coast was a valuable commodity in the colonial trade for centuries, it was the expansion of the fishery during  the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that resulted in unprecedented financial success for American whaling. During that time, extensive hunting grounds discovered in the Pacific Ocean led to an ever increasing demand for sperm whale oil, which was considered the ideal lubricant and illuminant for the burgeoning industrial revolution. To meet demand, the geographic focus of the majority of whaleships was shifted to the Pacific region in the early decades of the nineteenth century and trading centres were subsequently established at island groups like Hawaii to support their activities.

The ships employed in pelagic whaling in the early to midnineteenth century were workplaces which incorporated complex industrial processes that resulted from wider social, cultural and industrial changes. Due in large part to technological innovations and systemic standardisation by American whalers in the mid- to late eighteenth century, whaleships were organised as self-contained and fully integrated industrial platforms that incorporated both the equipment necessary to carry out whaling operations and the domestic spaces needed for officers and crews. Thus equipped, the geographic restrictions that previously limited their operational range were removed and the search for new hunting grounds led to voyages to ever more remote regions, greatly extended the duration of voyages, and resulted in an increase to the size of the vessels employed and changes to their rigs.

This dissertation explores the industrial nature of the pelagic whaling ships that operated in the Pacific Ocean in the early to mid-nineteenth century. It combines historical and archival research, the results of archaeological site inspections and recording, and comparative studies of museum collections to contextualise the industrial experience and the working environment that existed onboard these vessels. To understand the systems that operated on pelagic whaleships of this period, relevant data is analysed using three themes adapted from industrial archaeological practice to explore the concepts of ‘maritime industrial workplace’, ‘maritime resource extraction’ and ‘maritime industrial seascapes’.

Raupp, J.T.
“And so ends this day’s work”: industrial perspectives on early nineteenth-century American whaleships wrecked in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands
December 2015
Thesis Abstracts
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